horsemanship training

Who We Are

Founded in 2016 by the LaRock Family, Rock Ranch is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization providing horsemanship training, riding lessons, senior programming, and mental health counseling in a natural, Christ-filled setting. We are members of PATH International (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) and certified in Eagala (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association).


Rock Ranch provides opportunities for persons to improve themselves physically, cognitively, socially and psychologically while learning the art and skills of horsemanship in a Christ filled setting.


  • Customized programming and personalized lessons

  • Inclusive, welcoming environment to all

  • Family atmosphere and leadership

  • Rural location in Hills, MN just minutes away from Sioux Falls, SD

  • Faith component and emphasis on love and joy

  • Senior programming

  • Mental Health counseling focusing on Eagala model

  • Belief in the work, the people, and the impact

Meet The Team
Eagala Certified Equine Specialist

Marie LaRock, Co-Founder 
Eagala Certified Equine Specialist, MS- SLP

Marie's vision for providing quality horsemanship training & life skills in a nature filled environment is the driving force behind Rock Ranch. Marie earned a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and a Master's Degree in Speech- Language Pathology from Minnesota State University - Moorhead.


Her lifelong love of horses and working with children was the spark igniting the formation of Rock Ranch. Marie is a member of PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) and certified as an Equine Specialist under Eagala (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association).


Marie has worked with children on horseback at Rock Ranch for 6 years, volunteered with HorsePower in Sioux Falls for over 10 years, and has provided speech therapy and instruction in school systems all over the region since 2001. All lessons at Rock Ranch are led by Marie.

Eagala Certified Equine Specialist

Carissa Palmberg

MS, LPC, LAC, Eagala Certified Mental Health Practitioner

Carissa received her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology with a minor in counseling from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO and her Master of Science degree in community agency counseling from Missouri State University in Springfield, MO. After graduating with her undergraduate degree, Carissa worked at New Hope Wilderness Camp in Ava, MO. It was there that she was introduced to equine assisted psychotherapy.


For her internship in graduate school, Carissa was able to continue pursuing equine assisted psychotherapy at Healing Reigns in Waddell, AZ. Now Carissa is happy to be helping bring equine assisted psychotherapy to the greater Sioux Falls, SD area.


Carissa is a licensed professional counselor and licensed addiction counselor. She is certified in equine-assisted psychotherapy through the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (Eagala). 


Carissa’s husband serves in the South Dakota Air National Guard full-time and together they farm in Iowa. They have five young children who share their love for adventure and the outdoors.

Eagala Certified Equine Specialist

Jill Jonnes-Kuca, MC, MACL, FFT
Eagala Certified Mental Health Practitioner, Pastoral Counselor

Jill received her Master of Counseling (MC) and Master of Christian Leadership (MACL) at Sioux Falls Seminary. She also received a Master of Divinity equivalency through the National Association of Veteran’s Affairs Chaplains. She did her counseling internship providing clinical care at Sioux Falls Psychological Services. Jill also did a one year residency as a chaplain providing clinical pastoral counseling at the Sioux Falls Veterans Hospital. She is currently working toward state licensure under a board approved plan of supervision. She currently works at Lutheran Social Services as a family therapist working with troubled teens and their family communication deficiencies. 


Jill was drawn to the Eagala model of therapy because of its systematic and experiential approach of looking at a problem. She likes to call herself a “Spiritually Integrated Counselor” because she takes an integrated approach to counseling, including both psychological truth and Christian truth. 


She is certified in Functional Family Therapy (FFT), Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT), Suicide Prevention, Hypnotherapy, Equine Growth and Assisted Learning Association, and a member of the Association of Clinical Pastoral Educators. 


Jill was born and raised in the Sioux Falls area and currently lives on an acreage east of Sioux Falls with her husband, two children, and a handful of horses and other critters!

Patti Swenson, RN, BAN, BMTCN


Patti received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Nursing from Augustana University. She has worked as a Registered Nurse in Oncology and Hematology, as well as Hospice.


She has special certification in providing physical and emotional support to patients and families while undergoing intense and stressful bone marrow transplantation and cellular therapy. She also has experience in caring for patients in hospice offering spiritual support by walking alongside them as they come to the end of their life’s journey.

Patti recently retired from her position as Bone Marrow Transplant Coordinator at Avera Transplant Institute and is excited to join the team at Rock Ranch as an Equine Specialist. She will maintain her licensure in MN and SD to provide nursing support as needed during therapy sessions and believes the role as a nurse, combined with an Equine Specialist, will be beneficial to the clients we serve. 

Patti has long recognized the healing power of horses with her own horses, Tommy, Zeuss and Rambo. Patti enjoys spending time with her husband on their acreage and doing outdoor activities.

Stacy Bundesen, Office and Operations Manager


Staci received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services with an emphasis is Leisure Planning and Management, and a minor in Business Administration from Mankato State University. She has worked as the Youth Recreation Director for the YWCA and as an Administrative Assistant with the Luverne School District.

She feels very blessed to be a part of the Rock Ranch team and is looking forward to helping keep Rock Ranch organized and running smoothly. She is also excited to learn more about horses and to be able to help out in that area when needed.

Staci and her husband live in Hills and have two children. She enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, fishing, and relaxing at the lake.

Leia Tyrrell, Assistant Barn Manager


Leia was born loving horses. She began riding as a child  and continued on to pursue a career in the equine world as an adult.  

She attended Oregon State University where she studied Animal  Science with a focus on equine science and animal behavior.  

Her career with horses took her to California, where she worked  as a wrangler for Chaparral Ranch in Yosemite leading trail rides.  She then moved to Hawaii , where she worked as a horse trainer  and caretaker for Pu’u O Hoku Ranch and then as a wrangler for the Four Seasons Lanai.  

Leia came to Rock Ranch through contacts with mutual friends. She loves the vision of the ranch, and has always enjoyed  teaching people, especially children, about horses the most.  
Leia works as the assistant barn manager, teaching lessons at  the ranch as well as helping to care for the horses and the grounds

Board Of Directors

Dan & Marie LaRock

Co-Founders & Chairpersons

Ethan Rozeboom

Board Member

Marla Meyer

Board Member

Dr. Erin deKoning

Board Member


"Rock Ranch is a priceless experience that all four of our kids look forward to all year. Marie is so caring with the kids and tailors the sessions for each individual child. Our family is forever grateful for all of their help!"

"My two boys (10 and 13) finished their fourth session of riding lessons at Rock Ranch this past summer. It’s an activity that they truly enjoy and look forward to. They talk about the horses like their friends and always have a story about what they were able to do on “their” horse that day. It’s fun – for them, it’s just plain FUN.  But as their mom, I see more than that. I see instructors who are genuine, friendly and encouraging. I see well planned activities that build focus and memory. I see goals adjusted for their individual needs. I see confidence gained after each session. And, I see FUN too! It’s been such a great addition to our summer plans, and we would welcome the opportunity to enjoy riding time throughout the year."

“I love Flo! I love Marie teaching me!” — Grace Andera (7)

“Grace’s favorite two weeks of the whole year are the two weeks she has horse lessons during June and July. Grace has loved horses her whole life and Rock Ranch gives her a place to learn, grow and continue to develop her love of horses. Marie and the Rock Ranch volunteers are a blessing to Grace and our whole family!”
— Jason and Sarah Andera